Attending your first twelve-step meeting in Washington is nothing like how it’s portrayed in Hollywood movies.
What to Expect at Your First 12-Step Meeting in Washington
If you’ve started to feel like you have compulsive behavior, abuse, or addiction problem, and you want to investigate further, you can attend a twelve-step meeting to be sure. It may seem like a daunting, scary experience to expose yourself to strangers about your problems. This is something that most first-timers experience but the process is designed to make you feel supported and comfortable. You may think you’ll be obligated to sign up permanently, give money to the group or sign up for a sponsor immediately. This isn’t the case at all, you just need to show up for yourself and take in the information. If you speak to some of the recovering addicts in a 12-step group, they’ll tell you that they’re happy they stuck with the program. Anonymous groups will share a similar philosophy but meetings can differ so make sure to find a twelve-step group that you’ll be comfortable in. These groups are designed to help you recover but rehab treatment should also be a part of your recovery plan. There are two types of twelve-step support group meetings which include open and closed meetings. The open meetings are for anyone who wants to observe. Closed meetings are for those who are suffering from addiction and are committed to recovery. To make yourself more comfortable in the environment, you may want to attend an open meeting. If you’re already sure that you have a problem and are looking to recover, attend the closed meeting to start your journey. Twelve-step meetings in WA will include all or some of the following formats:
- A speaker who opens the meeting with a story relating to addiction.
- A general discussion.
- A study meeting where parts of the Big Book are reviewed. This is a helpful reference book to help those with addictions or behavioral problems. The basic text is traditionally for Alcoholics Anonymous but can be used for other groups.
- Beginner meetings are held which will involve introductory questions and answers.
Walking Through the Door of Your First Meeting in WA State
Organizations in Washington State that hold anonymous meetings rely on their own funding so your meeting will often be held in a civic room, classroom, or fellowship hall of a church. Expect to be welcomed with open arms as those who have been in recovery for a longer period will go out of their way to make you feel welcome. They understand where you’re at and acknowledge that you’ve made a big leap by attending. There is no judgment as the twelve-step programs encourage members to cultivate unconditional love. They know your struggles and have been where you are. They needed help, they felt afraid, and they’ve hit their own personal rock bottom. People in these meetings are rooting for you and believe in the power of the twelve-step for recovery.
The Standard Meeting Procedures in WA
The meeting will usually begin with a reading from literature involved with the organization in WA state. This often comes from twelve-step, twelve Principles or a daily devotion. There are misconceptions around 12 Step meetings like they’re religious based which is not the case. Announcements for local events in Washington may be shared if there are any. After that, the room is open for people to share. If the group is an open group meeting, anyone is welcome to share for 5-10 minutes. After that, others in the room can talk about their hopes for the person who just shared. For those with intense desires to relapse, you are encouraged to open up and share so you can get the feedback and encouragement you need to abstain. If you don’t want to share, that’s your prerogative and there’s no pressure.
The Sobriety Chip Presentation and What It Means
The meetings in the state of WA will last for an hour which will then close with a sobriety chip presentation. The leader of the group will ask if anyone is celebrating “clean time.” If someone in the group is, they will receive a round chip, keychain, or token. You can also receive a chip for your decision to stop your addiction or compulsive behavior. The milestones include:
- The initial decision to stop drinking, using, or conductive compulsive behavior.
- Someone who relapsed but wants to try again.
- 30 days
- 60 days
- 90 days
- 2 years
- 5 years
- 10 years and beyond
Your First Chip Will Be Presented to You
You can also receive your first chip for taking the first step. The group will cheer you on for your courage and you’ll receive a chip that will serve as a daily reminder of your commitment towards a better life. You may not be ready to draw attention upon yourself. Perhaps you’re not sure if you have an addiction problem that needs addressing. Whatever your reasons, it’s okay to not come forward. The moment the group leader asks if there are any newcomers, you may feel anxious and unwilling to share. It is recommended if you want to stop drinking or using but that’s really your choice. After the chips are given out, some groups may choose to do the serenity prayer aloud together while holding hands in a circle. The prayer is: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things that I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.”
Talking with Your Group Members in Washington
When the meeting ends, you’re free to mingle for a few minutes with other residents of Washington. This is a good time to get phone numbers from the same sex in the event you need support during a moment of weakness. During intense cravings, you may just need that lifeline to keep you on your positive path.
Learning, Listening and Talking at Meetings in the State of Washington
There is a stereotype of anonymous groups that portray people sharing their personal stories. This is often what is considered the basic function of a twelve-step meeting like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) by the public. While that is one aspect of the group, you are not obligated to share. The meetings are informal and you’re not forced to do anything. The meetings are in no way a forum or a place for intrusive questions. You can just listen to what others are saying which can teach you a lot about your addiction.
Are 12-Step Meetings in the State of Washington Religion Based?
Groups like AA are a spiritual program but that doesn’t make them religious. They have no affiliation with anyone religious group in WA. People among the group are all welcome to their own individual beliefs. The twelve-step program has been influenced by the evangelical Christian group but is open to people who believe in other religions. If you aren’t involved in a religion, it may seem like twelve-step programs are deeply religious. The original founders of AA wanted to promote it as a spiritual program and much of those fundamentals have remained. Groups do vary and take what works for each addiction or compulsion they represent. The meetings won’t promote anything religious and they’re more spiritually based. The drive for spirituality is the belief that when you go deeper, you can find the strength in you that will help recovery much more than will power ever could. Anonymous meetings have helped many people stay clean and curate lives they love in lieu of hopelessness. The model of the meetings is incorporated into treatment programs because they work. You might be feeling nervous but once you become a part of the community of people within the group, you’ll be glad you had the courage to walk through the door. The meeting is likely going to spark a new hope in you that will allow you to believe recovery is possible. You can be happy and free from the binding chains that have held you down for so long.
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NCIB (2011 Jul 20) PMC, How Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) Work: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives. Retrieved from,